Art Dudley

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Art Dudley Posted: Mar 12, 2014 4 comments
In the wake of my October 2013 "Listening" column and its negative take on the Pete Riggle Woody tonearm (footnote 1), I was surprised and gratified by the offer of another new arm: a gesture of trust not unlike sending one's children to a sleepover at Casey Anthony's house. The supplier was Phillip Holmes, of Texas-based Mockingbird Distribution (footnote 2), and the new tonearm was the Abis SA-1, the design and manufacture of which was commissioned by the Japanese firm Sibatech, itself a distributor of dozens of high-end audio brands, including Zyx, Mactone, Zerodust, and, perhaps most famously, Kondo.
Art Dudley Posted: Feb 27, 2014 Published: Mar 01, 2014 19 comments
I know someone who bought, for his own kitchen, a stove intended for the restaurant trade, simply because it enhances his enjoyment of cooking. Another friend, a motoring enthusiast, has equipped his garage with a brace of tools, including a hydraulic lift, that would be the envy of some humbler repair shops. Yet another friend indulges her enthusiasm for ceramics with a potter's wheel and kiln that one might find in a well-endowed art school. Among the most serious consumers, it seems, the watchword is professional; odd, then, that professional-quality monitors don't account for an even bigger chunk of the domestic loudspeaker market.
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Art Dudley Posted: Feb 07, 2014 6 comments
Photograph: Jonathan Halpern

Ken Shindo, the Japanese audio designer whose electronics, loudspeakers, and accessories have influenced the parallel worlds of tube audio and analog audio, and who is shown above (right) with loudspeaker designer John DeVore, died late last month after a brief illness. He was 74.

Art Dudley Posted: Jan 30, 2014 Published: Feb 01, 2014 1 comments
The road to hell is paved with good inventions: clever ideas that appear, in hindsight, motivated more by a desire to sell clever ideas than to make musically superior products.

The DiaLogue tube amplifiers from PrimaLuna have, at their heart, a clever idea of their own: an output circuit that is user-switchable between triode operation, in which the screen grid of a tetrode or pentode power tube is defeated by means of connection to the tube's anode; and Ultralinear operation, in which the screen grid of a tetrode or pentode carries a portion of the AC music signal, supplied by a tap on the output-transformer primary, in a feedback-like effort to reduce distortion and increase power. Fans of the former often report a sweeter, more tubey sound, while fans of the latter report a tighter, more detailed, more timbrally neutral sound. Audio enthusiasts are given to reporting any number of things.

Art Dudley Posted: Jan 28, 2014 Published: Feb 01, 2014 17 comments
Domestic audio is based on two simple processes: transforming movement into electricity and electricity back into movement. Easy peasy.

Audio engineers have been doing those things for ages. Have they improved their craft to the same extent as the people who, over the same period of time, earned their livings making, say, automobiles and pharmaceuticals? I don't know. But if it were possible to spend an entire day driving a new car from 50 years ago, treating diabetes and erectile dysfunction with the treatments that were available 50 years ago, and listening to 50-year-old records on 50-year-old playback gear, the answer might seem more clear.

Art Dudley Posted: Jan 04, 2014 2 comments
If you travel along Route 20 in upstate New York, you might see the hitchhiker my family and I refer to as the Old Soldier—so called because this slightly built man, whose age could be anywhere from 55 to 90, is always dressed in a military uniform from some long-ago campaign. When we first saw him, his topcoat suggested a recent return from Chateau-Thierry; in more recent sightings, the old man has taken to wearing the trim khakis and sharply creased legionnaire cap of the late 1940s—chronological zigzagging that made me think, at first, that this traveler was aging in reverse.
Art Dudley Posted: Jan 02, 2014 5 comments
Last summer, in an uncharacteristic fit of wanderlust, I took an American Airlines flight to London. Two days later, I rode the Eurostar train to Paris in the company of my daughter and my wife, a travel agent, who had secured first-class train accommodations on her professional discount. Our ride was brisk, but the upgrade would have been a waste at any price: The Eurostar food was vile.
Art Dudley Posted: Dec 12, 2013 1 comments
"We put music in the souls of our amplifiers. Every amplifier, every tube, every transformer has music in its soul."

Not to be cynical, but I've heard, over the years, countless variations on that sentiment. Not to be naïve, but it rang with somewhat-greater-than-usual sincerity when given voice by 45-year-old Richard Wugang—founder, with his late father, of Virginia-based Sophia Electric, Inc.

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Art Dudley Posted: Dec 05, 2013 2 comments
Memory mitigates adversity.—Lucius Lactantius (ca 240–ca 320 AD)

Pity the aging perfectionist, the happy diversions of whose younger days—washing records, oiling turntables, leveling equipment racks, cleaning tube pins—have now become hated chores. And this from a man who used to redo his Roksan Xerxes setup every few months, just for "fun."

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Art Dudley Posted: Nov 30, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 2013 12 comments
It began innocently enough. In June, Slate.com published a sampling from an exhibit by the photographer Kai Schaefer, in which classic LPs of different eras were partnered with the similarly classic record players on which they might have been played: Tea for the Tillerman on a Dual 1219, Kind of Blue on a Rek-O-Kut Rondine, Sgt. Pepper's on a Thorens TD 124—you get the idea. The photos worked as cultural documents, as good-natured kitsch, as surprisingly beautiful and compelling industrial art. I was thoroughly charmed.

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